Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Video Spotlight - Louis CK on Loneliness, featuring Springsteen



Louis CK has been my favorite comedian for nearly a decade now.  I remember my first exposure to him was in the 90s, probably on one of those random Comedy Central specials, and I just filed him away as "generic white comic #644".  However, around my junior year of college, I discovered his excellent Live In Houston album (sadly out of print), and was instantly hooked.  Over the last 10 years, Louie's career has rose meteorically, to the point where I really don't need to explain who he is to anyone anymore.  Outside of his stand-up, his innovative deals that he has struck with both the filming of his television show and the distribution of his concert tickets and videos have been hugely influential on the comedy industry.  Personally, I've enjoyed watching his comedy evolve, as you can see "him"* go from a selfish, petty, and scared asshole to a humanist who has come to peace with his failings.

*Note: I put "him" in quotes just because it is important to distinguish that how the performer presents himself as a comedian is not necessarily who that person is.  Some comics do come off as more sincere, while others make it clear that they are playing a character - just see Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  However, it is sometimes when these lines are blurred is where comics can get into trouble, such as Andrew Dice Clay and Daniel Tosh.

Louie has always been fantastic on his talk show appearances, but over the past few years, his demeanor has become more relaxed and less "joke-y".  In his some of his most famous Conan appearances, Louie just goes full on into his comedy set, telling jokes immediately and get huge laughs.  However, it the performance above, Louis takes a more conversational, slower tone.  He is still on the subject of cell phones, and rather than focusing on the entitled people using them, he focuses on how the technology itself is divorcing the users from the human experience.  It's a difficult joke to tell, and Louie guides his audience along a long narration.  Eventually, they hit the subject that made me write this post: Bruce Springsteen.

Around the two-minute mark, Louie talks about listening to "Jungleland" on the radio.  Both he and Conan take a pause from Louie's story to ham it up with cartoon-y Springsteen impersonations.  Knowing how seriously Louie takes the joke-writing process, it is clear that invoking of Springsteen, and specifically "Jungleland" is not an accident (although Louie does "forget" the name of the song).  Springsteen is a universally known performer, and the chance to do an over-the-top Springsteen impersonation gives some goofiness to the somber story he was telling.  While "Jungleland" isn't as broadly known, it is the perfect Springsteen song to punctuate the joke, as those who know the song instantly connect to the moment Louie is talking about.  In the end, Louie crafts a sad, funny tale that eloquently describes what we here at the blog have been amateurishly trying to express: that the perfect Springsteen song can be a kick you right in your emotional gut, and connect you to parts of your humanity that are often neglected.